Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau


The Adjustment Bureau deals with some deeply philosophical issues in an entertaining and engaging narrative.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is on a fast track to political success when an episode from his past dashes his hopes. But then he meets the beautiful ballerina Elise (Emily Blunt) in a men’s bathroom and falls deeply in love with her. But their love is not meant to be. It is not part of the predetermined plan for David’s life and the Adjustment Bureau is brought in to get his life back on track. David is shocked to discover that the life he thought was his choice is, in fact, nothing more than a manipulation of events according to the plan mapped out for him by the “Chairman” of the Adjustment Bureau. Of course, David is not happy about his life being manipulated – especially when it means he is not supposed to be with Elise – the person who has, for the first time in 25 years, made him feel as though he is not alone. He tries to comply with the plan but finds his love for Elise overwhelming and he decides to take things into his own hands and assert his freedom of choice.

Many Christians believe that God has a plan mapped out for everyone’s life and that God manipulates all events to bring about God’s purposes. Nothing occurs by chance. Whatever happens is as God wills it. Apart from this not being a biblical teaching, it is logically incoherent. And The Adjustment Bureau, while not explicitly mentioning God, pulls apart the implications of this naive view showing what would need to be happening behind the scenes if it was true. Others believe in some vague idea of Fate controlling things and the same implications apply.

It must be said that the story itself is actually quite simple. And it may be that the story will be of more interest to those who have an interest in the philosophical and theological issues surrounding predestination and free will. Damon and Blunt do a good job of their roles with support from members of the Adjustment Bureau that could have been more impactful.

The end of the movie tends to collapse into an insipid assertion that we can have control over our lives by asserting freedom of choice – but that could have been more subtle leaving the viewer to come to these conclusions naturally. I personally like movies that leave me suspended in ambiguity rather than doing the thinking for me (consider, for example, Inception).

the_adjustment_bureauOverall, I found The Adjustment Bureau to be enjoyable, provocative, and contemporary. It has suspense, romance, and intrigue. Even those who do not come from a religious background of predestinarian thinking will benefit from the idea that we can take control of circumstances and assert our freedom of choice.


Positive Review
'An exhilarating balancing act, at once a science-fiction romp, a paranoid thriller and a philosophical treatise.’ – Calvin Wilson/St Louis Post Dispatch

Negative Review
'There's a startling moment 10 or 15 minutes into The Adjustment Bureau - the only time, really, when the film achieves any level of surprise. The dispiriting dullness of this dreary misfire hasn't had time to settle in and thicken: The movie hasn't yet revealed its utter and thorough ineptitude.’ – Rene Rodrigruez/Miami Herald

Content Advice
brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image

USA: PG-13


  1. I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.

  2. It's a tricky, slippery slope denying the accident, but the last 2 popes have commented on coincidences sometimes being "messages" (in the case of John Paul 2) or "nudges" as to quote our current Pope, as originating in God somehow. Neither leaves out choice, I suppose, - I think Merton saw the greek idea of fate as inevitable, which is kind of a double-entendre and I think this comment is getting too long.
    But I wasn't aware of this movie - it does sound intriguing.

  3. The first thing I can say is that The Adjustemente Bureau is a rare film. It starts as a thriller about an aspiring U.S. senator, only to be a courageous commitment to science fiction, when in reality it is a love story. A fantastic modern reissue requited love, but impossible to divine.
    When production starts to become a science fiction story is a bit messy and a bit mislead some characters, but once you become more or less with the leitmotif of the hat brigade, tension arises an intense thriller.
    The final resolution is a little bluff, a little fairy tale, a little Disney

  4. An entertaining, unforseeable movie but something dense ultimately. It finishes almost without time, they do not give many answers.

  5. The movie leaves many questions without response. It is something rare. I did not like it

  6. I liked the movie. I liked everything about it; the casting, Damon and Blunt, (Mackie, Stamp, and Slattery), the production values, the quick-cuts, and of course, the story telling. Very Good.